Thursday, August 29, 2013

Craegen : Cassie Aldracks [part 1] (Friday Fiction)

Hi everyone! 
I have the lovely distinction of hosting Friday Fiction this week. I've been trying to smooth out this piece out between my weekend homework today, so I hope it doesn't sound too much like all the Shakespeare and Melville that I've been reading. It is part of a gigantic creature-topia style world that I've been working on for the better half of nearly three years, featuring dragon-like creatures called Craegens. I'm really excited to share the first introduction/chapter piece. This is one of fantasy worlds, so be warned that my imagination is running at top-speed. Synopsis is below. 

To join in the Friday Fiction fun, just add the link to your story to the linky widget below. Remember to keep your stories PG-13. Don't forget to read and comment. We all love the feedback. Happy weekend!




A CRAEGEN'S HEART 

Newly-turned 18-year-old Cassie Aldracks isn't looking for anything exciting to happen as she works towards earning her Healer's Ribbons. Her quiet existence is turned upside down when the worst swallows her whole--a creature inheritance? Her family was supposed to be human--and Craegens are supposed to be extinct! Her transformation, new powers, new friends and new enemies, have her rethinking a peaceful realm on the brink of war over a centuries old cycle. 

My claws came in before the scales.

I had plenty of time to panic by then and it was easy to hide them under standard-issue gloves. My hands simply curled in in themselves and the rounded nails lengthened and grew to points. I thought I was hallucinating the first time.

By the ninth time it happened, I’d realized that they were claws and had ruined three pairs of black gloves. No one else seemed to notice, as it was approaching our midterm season and everyone was focused on their studies.

I could excuse myself to study in my room and that worked until the dorm leader threatened to lodge a complaint about maxing out my indoor hours. I hid myself in the library then, searching out books and scanned pages of obscure legends to explain away the fact that my eighteenth birthday had brought me nothing but pain.

The good part was that I was no longer required to return home during the breaks, I was now considered a legal adult and thus able to stay over at the academy as long as I had less than five demerits. I only ever had two and that was usually because of my idiot roommates who refused to break tradition, even when it cost them a mark on their academic record.

My uncle was never forgiving of those two marks though, so I would find myself up to my elbows in all kinds of volunteered work to make up for the transgressions. I soon learned how to deal with it. Showing up to class with claws for hands was definitely one way to ruin my carefully balanced reputation.

I preferred to remain just under the radar as far as my fellow students and professors were concerned. Creature inheritances were quite rare among the population and even though they were protected to some degree, the restrictions that came with it made you out to be an exotic pet of sorts.

The scales came in as the semester progressed. I woke up to find my hands covered in silvery-white scales with a peach tint if held up to the light. The claws seemed more natural then. A frantic scrubbing session in the private showers only showed that there were more of them than I’d realized.

The sides of my face, patches along my arms and legs, a few splotches along my torso and then my ears. My ears were the worst, instead of the normal, natural, human-looking appendages with rounded tops, I had dainty, pointed elf-ears.

Very real, very pointy, elfin ears that would not go away. This was not supposed to be happening. I could hear just fine with them and there was no shortage of sensation. In fact, they were more sensitive than before. The pain was excruciating when I tried to stretch it in a useless attempt to return them to their original form.

Several long minutes of panic eventually melted away to sheer exhaustion. I’d spent most of the night trying to decide how I could hide the scales, only to finally look up in the mirror and realize that my original appearance had returned. No pointed ears, no shiny scales and definitely no claws.

I almost thought I was imagining things, except for the fact that there was a very distinct nightmare that chose to surface. For my eighteenth birthday, the most important day of my young life, I had the worst dream I could recall. I’d fallen into some sort of personal torture where everything ached, burned and cracked.

This nightmare remained burned into my memory. I couldn’t recall any other that was so vivid. I don’t know how long it lasted, only that I couldn’t wake up from it, no matter how hard I tried and that no one heard me, even though I screamed and cried for it to stop. I clawed bloody marks into my entire body and ripped up the sheets, coverlet and pillows. I made a mess of everything and there was so much pain.

But when I woke, I found that I’d screamed myself hoarse and could barely whisper. The destructive details that would have proved the nightmare to be more real than a dream were conspicuously absent. My bed was in perfect condition, there were no visible marks anywhere on my body, but there was a dull ache that lingered as if I’d pushed myself too hard in basic training or something.

I chose to believe it was a nightmare, even though I had skipped the underwater basic training regimen that week—for a field outing with my specialty Healer’s class—and never took part in any of the workout sessions. The aches faded away, except for the occasional phantom pains in my shoulders and lower back. I couldn’t figure out what they were and my monthly physical didn’t show anything out of the ordinary.

Not even my claws or scales came out that day.

If I hadn’t seen them that very night, I would’ve been sure that I was imagining things. I searched the library for all the information I could about creature inheritances, hoping that I could find out whether there was anything buried in my family history. Some of the ancestry records were sealed though, and I couldn’t learn anything beyond my father’s parents, which, predictably, didn’t explain much.

I was hardly up for company or the remaining weeks of school when I stumbled out of my student quarters for the day.

“Oi, Cassie!” Kima came bouncing down the hall, pausing to sling an arm around my shoulders. “You look terrible,” she poked my cheek. “Are you still staying up to watch Lolly-dramas after curfew?”

“Kima!” I tried to pull away from her, wincing at the slap of her blonde pigtails against my face. As my self-appointed best-friend, Kima had a habit of filling in every single gap in my personality. If I was quiet, she’d be twice as loud to make it up for us both. Today, she was ridiculously hyper, if the constant twitching of her fingers were any indication at all. “Ow. Hey, watch it. What’d you do, clean out the dessert bar again?”

She gave me a look, then reluctantly released her gorilla-grip to wave her little flip wallet with her meal tickets in it. “Actually, I kind of used them all up and I was sort of hoping that-”

I dug into my pocket and handed over my own wallet. The sooner she stopped talking, the sooner I might have a few moments of piece for my troubled mind. “Just take it, whatever you want.”

“Really? Aw, you’re a sweetheart.” Kima happily flipped through the week’s tickets and tore out all the ones for the dessert bar. “I can trade you a fruit one, if you like.”

I made a face. “Actually, this week I feel like eating steak.”

“Steak?” She stopped in mid-step, pulling me to a stop beside her. “Cassie, you never eat steak.” She snapped my wallet shut and tucked it down the front of my jacket. “How are you feeling? Fever?” She slapped a hand to my forehead. “You look terrible, but you feel fine.” She bit her lips. “How was your monthly check-up?” Her worried look changed to a frown, “and for the record, the next time you feel like skipping the practicals, warn me ahead of time!” She produced a plastic folder and generously whapped me over the head with it. “I had to give your nonexistent excuses to Healer Surrey, how do you think she took it?”

“Er, thanks?” I took the folder, meekly. “Sorry, I didn’t know that I would—I kind of overslept.”

“Lolly dramas,” Kima retorted, referring to the overly dramatized web series that the art students took turns producing. It was a wild, wacky show that was somehow addictive in spite of everything to the contrary. “Quit watching that stuff after curfew.” She sighed, “Quit watching anything after curfew. You need sleep. Every sane person needs sleep. Anyway, I told her that you were helping Conner with his science project, so she was fine with letting you off this once. The second time, I told her that you were slated for a check-up, but she didn’t really buy it that well and the third time-”

“The third time she said she saw you in the library, which only worked, because I told her that you were helping me on a proj-” Conner’s dry voice cut into the conversation. “Kima, are you filching dessert tickets off of Cassie again? That’s rude, you know.”

“She never uses them!” Kima protested. She danced around to walk on my other side, to make sure there was distance between her and Conner. “I’m just helping out,” she frowned. “Hey, don’t you have a few steaks on your menu this week?”

“Steak?” Conner looked at her and then at me. “You don’t eat steak.”

“It’s ah, a craving,” I flashed a smile. “So, hey. How’s the project I haven’t helped you with?”

“You can show up tomorrow afternoon so I can test it,” he said, smoothly. “Here,” he reached into his pocket and produced two dinner meal tickets with pictures of a juicy steak printed on the glossy card stock. “You can have these. I’ve already bargained with the others.”

“Bargained? With who? For what?”

“With whom and why,” Conner corrected. “With the Seniors in the Athletics department so I can see if my experiment can really have a positive impact on idiots with brawn for brains.”

“Hey, they’re not all that bad,” I defended. I took the tickets and retrieved my wallet to stick them inside. My friends were right, I generally avoided most meats and sweets as a general rule, but lately, I’d been craving red meat like it was going to be extinct. If I wasn’t so tired, I might have bothered to care why.

“That’s ‘cause they’re all nice to you,” Kima sighed. “You have no idea what it’s like to be competing with them, the blockheads. Do you have any idea what I went through this past week? I was supposed to take three volunteers through my study, for the midterm project and two of them bailed. If I see them again this semester, they’d better hope they’re heading home for the summer holidays.”

I sniggered. “That bad?”

“Worse,” Kima shook her head. “I can’t believe I’m putting myself through this on purpose. Being a duel-enrollment student is horrible. Say, Conner, why didn’t you ask me to help with the experiment? I wouldn’t have minded. I still count halfway for the Athletics department. ”

“You’re a girl,” Conner wrinkled his nose. “You’d ruin the data.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” She sputtered.

The bickering started up and I laughed to myself, watching them walk on ahead. It was nice to have friends that were just mine, who didn’t care that I had picked the most troublesome department to specialize in. Their strange friendship included me and overlooked the fact that technically all of our chosen departments were always at odds with each other.

Well, the science tech heads and the sports ones, anyway. Our academy was divided into the four departments that consisted of the cornerstones of our society. First, Technologies and Sciences, second, Athletics, third Medical and Healing, fourth, music and the arts. The Medical division was fairly neutral and the art types were considered to be too strange and offbeat to mingle much. Most students stayed within their departmental confines and were content in doing so. The boundaries between each are fairly strict, but students were allowed to interact with the other departments.

We still had our general studies classes together, but our mornings were often filled with specialty classes. Kima was holding a special position as dedicated Athletic Healer by her choice as a dual-enrollment student. Conner held the highest GPA for his department—Technologies and Science—consistently winning and holding either the top student award or the runner-up position.

I was just happy to be an average student working to keep up decent grades and maintain the necessary levels I’d finally reached in my healer classes. There was nothing spectacular about me, compared to Conner's amazing techno-whiz abilities and Kima's amazing Athletic feats, but I was happy enough to belong for the time being. Maybe I'd find a dream or a better career path later. 

Maybe. 

Having a Healer's ability was almost good enough, as far as uniqueness went. 

Unless you had a magical gift, you were classified as a Doctor, if you were blessed with magical talents, then you earned and maintained the title of Healer. My talents were respectable enough that I had tested and earned entrance into the program where I felt I could make the most difference.

A wave of weariness washed over me and I made myself hurry up to stand between Kima and Conner, half-leaning on them for some support.

“Cassie?” Conner pinched the bridge of his nose. “Are you alright?”

“Perfectly fine. Just need that steak,” I made myself smile and followed them into the mess hall. The past week had left me feeling increasingly tired with each passing day. I slept through the entire weekend and scrambled to complete my homework during class.

Insomnia, which had plagued me on and off since my thirteenth year, had vanished in the wake of this extreme exhaustion. I’d taken to chugging energy drinks in between of everything, paying out of pocket with all that I’d saved up from the past few years.

My generous relatives did not care to grant me an allowance, but I never bothered to tell them that I could earn some extra credits by lending a hand on weekends. Thanks to some of the kinder superior officers on board our floating-rock-in-space-station academy, I was able to find and accept odd jobs that were safe and decent, earning some credits in the process.

The mess hall was humming and bustling with the usual mass of students filing through to collect their necessary meals. The entire process was fully automated and thus foolproof. For tracking purposes, we all scanned our ID cards upon entering and started the timer for the allotted hour and a half given to the midday meal. We shuffled through the serving line after scanning our meal tickets. Our trays were collected at the end and the appropriate credits deducted from our personalized meal plans.

Our usual table was in the corner and of the eating courtyard, just within view of the exits and close enough to the trash receptacles so that we wouldn’t have to wait too long in line to clock out. The steak looked appetizing enough, but a little too cooked for my new craving. I hated the thought of wasting food, so I ate it anyway and then felt an overwhelming urge to sleep again.

Pushing the tray away, I folded my arms on the table and rested my head atop them. Conner and Kima were still arguing over his experimental project and I knew they were giving me some privacy, when neither of them commented as I closed my eyes.

Surely a little nap couldn’t hurt…

(c) Sara Harricharan

A/N: Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this opening installment. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

D is for Dunkin Donuts

A to Z blog hop at Patterings.
3rd round of A2Z blog meme. Click the pic for more info. 


Hi and welcome dear reader!

I've been thinking about this week's post all week. I was rehearsing inside of my head all the different ways I could tackle my topic and I finally settled on D for Dunkin' Donuts. I hope you like donuts. See, I have this fabulous memory with my Dad and wait--I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Sit down and find a cup of something to drink, then come back. I can wait.

Back? Lovely! Let's get started.

My Dad and I have always been travelers. As long as I can recall, we've both shared a love for exploring new places and long, trips for the fun of it. Any trip, as long as I have nothing important "pending" (homework, a job, more homework, a writing deadline and so on), I can easily pack myself up and into the car, jeep, van or whatever it is that is going somewhere and give my soul the break it has been clamoring for. Traveling is a way to recharge my enormous, expressive imagination and I have many fond memories of sitting with my head craned to the side, watching things pass by.



I love to be on my way somewhere, to see the different scenery passing in the customary blur of color, to listen to a song on repeat for hours until I've memorized all the lyrics and I can pitch my voice fairly close to the actual artist, to have those wonderful conversations that only surface after you've been driving for at least two hours. Some of my fondest childhood memories come from spending time with my Dad on the road trips we took together.

As a traveling companion, I'm cheerful (most of the time), awake (except for the times when I'm sleeping), a good DJ (I never make a playlist, so I'm pretty much guessing at the next song based on the atmosphere in the vehicle) and I only need to make the occasional stop (Translate = I ran out of chocolate chip cookies or bottled water).

That said. While I am mostly incapable of reading a map, I can accurately follow, program and read directions or a GPS. I am a nightowl because morning does not agree with me, so I don't mind traveling late into the night or staying up past a standard bedtime. I've always had a knack for picking decent travel music to keep everyone happy, so it's probably a good thing I don't usually make playlists. Tic-tac is also a good "munching habit" when I've run out of cookies.

Anyway, back to the topic. I can honestly say that traveling with my dad is a real treat, especially when it's just the two of us. We share many things in common, with a few exceptions. Up until my university "career" I was strongly opposed to anything coffee related, in any shape, scent or form.

Dad has dozens of stories where I would ask him to stop drinking coffee, due to the silly stories I'd hear about it. "Coffee makes your head hard" "Coffee keeps you up so you can't sleep." "Getting less than two hours of sleep is worse than driving drunk" and so on. I was absolutely convinced that my dear old Dad would somehow manage to send himself to an early grave because of this ridiculous coffee habit.

Of course, once I entered University, I learned about that precious little energy booster by the name of caffeine. I'd made it through community college fueled by Dr. Pepper and the occasional bar of Kit-Kat. Uni required something a little more heavy duty and preferably with less sugar.

Enter Coffee.

Oh how I dreaded the very word. I can't really tell you how I ended up drinking it in the first place. I don't actually remember. I'm still utterly convinced that it's horrible and tastes awful. But I can tell a good cup from a "bad" one and I know exactly how I like  also still drink a medium-sized with six creamers and no sugar. Dad takes a small-size with five creams and no sugar. I guess that's one thing we don't quite do in perfect synchronization.

While I don't remember how I ended up starting a coffee habit in addition to my tea-drinking obsession (and trust me, it really is an obsession!), I remember why I didn't stop. See, trips make for interesting conversation possibilities when you have a setting where x amount of human beings are crammed in a small space with no possible exit for  hours and miles on end.

It means you might have conversations you never thought you would have or you would say things that you finally worked up the courage to say. It also means if it's just me and Dad, I have his attention all to myself and I can ramble on about whatever I like or we can take turns. It also meant there were treats involved, things like donuts and coffee.

I should warn you right now that I am a loyal Dunkin Donuts gal for life.

This is partially my Dad's fault (just like the coffee habit!), but he can only claim half-credit here. I've had folks try to convert me to Krispy Kreme before and it didn't work. They tried. They really did, bless their sugared little hearts.

No, I'm serious. It didn't work. Krispy Kreme donuts are smaller, they rattle in the box and they can't make a decent Boston Cream donut. They also come in this ridiculous box of green and white, with a hint of a pink or red, that reminds me of ivy and Christmas in July and it just doesn't work.

My precious Dunkin' Donuts on the other hand, they make a mean Boston Cream (and a pretty good Bavarian Cream, if they're out of the Boston one) and their donuts fill up the entire box. They also have a nicer color scheme.

If you don't know how partial I am to colors already, then you can brush up your memory on this post. I treat my colors like crayons. Very seriously. Dunkin' donuts has a cheerful hot pink and orange, mixed with a warm coffee brown, a lighter shade of tan (or gold, if you must nitpick) and of course, a solid white background. I am quite fond of it.

I should also mention that I can't vouch for their coffee.

Well, kind of. See, I'm not very picky about my coffees--yet, if it's a good cup, it's a good cup. If it's bad, I'll pawn it off on *cough*Dad*cough*, and I'll try something else or reach for a good ol' Dr. Pepper. However, Dad is picky about his coffee and I trust his judgment as far as his coffee tastes go. Dunkin Donuts are good for donuts. Get your coffee before you get your donut. Then enjoy them together.

Now, before you start wondering how I made it into my twenties without ordering some kind of latte, allow me to the stress the term of "coffee." I never said anything about lattes, frappes, espressos and mochas. They can have their own post.

This week's letter for solely for the donuts and Dad.

It feels something like this:

Cups of coffee : $10.00
Dozen donuts : $10.00
Trip with Dad? Priceless.

I'm not addicted to coffee, (I save that for my precious tea habit) and I don't have caffeine withdrawals, (though I will whack you with a spatula if you dare give me decaf), but if you ever have the time and you'd care to go for coffee?

I can handle that.

And if you ever stop by for a visit and I know that you don't drink tea, well, I've been told that I make a pretty good cup of coffee, so call before you come and I'll put the pot on.

A great big bundle of thanks belongs to my Dad here, so, thanks Dad, for that. See, I love that my best memories of an everyday routine (getting a sweet breakfast treat or a hot beverage) remind me of happy, carefree days and good, solid conversations.

and thank you, dear reader, for stopping by my blog today. Have a lovely weekend!

~Sara

Saturday, August 10, 2013

C is for Coconut Smoothie (Recipe included)

A to Z blog hop at Patterings.
3rd round of A2Z blog meme. Click the pic for more info. 
I love coconuts.

Seriously. I do.

They are amazing fruits with so many good benefits and it just plain tastes good. I'm a tropical girl at heart, so anything coconut related is worth a try, at least once. I will state right now that the only coconut candy I do like, are those Mounds bars, but never mind that. There's very few coconut things that I've actually tried that I didn't like.

Most of the time, it was worth the experience of trying something new and discovering what amazing foodstuffs exist in this big ol' world.

Anyhow, my newest summer trend is to whip together a tasty sweet treat with enough sugar and ice to stave off the heat for a little bit. Natural Popsicles, milkshakes and smoothies have made their appearance in my kitchen, so I thought that this week, I would treat you to one of my quick fixes for a summer sweet tooth.

Pina Colada  is a lovely flavor, especially for yogurt and popsicles. It's also very easy to make, if you have the right ingredients on hand. I love pineapple and I adore coconut, so the opportunity to mix these two together seem spot on.

So here we go for a quick, simple smoothie recipe.

Depending on how sweet you want your smoothie to be, you can use sweetened or unsweetened coconut milk for your base. Sometimes I add a little regular milk, just for smoothness (Almond or Oat milk works really well too!), a ripe banana (the ripeness of the banana will help with the sweetness factor) and of course, some pineapple.

I tend to use a 1:1 ration for the coconut and pineapple, but if you need numbers, I'll make it simple. Keep in mind that I like to mix things up, so this recipe may be slightly more complex than a basic smoothie.

Sara's Tropical Coconut-Pineapple Dream Smoothie.  (Why on earth does it have such a long name?!)

1 Cup coconut juice/water/milk (sweetened or unsweetened according to taste)
1 Cup pineapple chunks
1/4 Cup milk (soy, rice, almond or oat is fine)
2 tablespoons honey or liquid syrup if you're using canned pineapple.
4 Ice cubes
1 teaspoon ground flaxseeds (golden flax)
1 Banana (frozen/ripe)

Cut fruit into chunks. Blend until smooth. Add the honey last, only IF it needs to be sweeter. Most of the time, you won't need it unless your pineapple is fresh (and sour!), so do a taste test before you add it. The flaxseed will thicken your smoothie to an almost milkshake consistency, so make sure you add the ice cubes, to balance it out.

Do not store it in the fridge, drink it the same day. You can garnish with coconut shreds, pineapple wedges, fruity ice cubes or whatever you like. It makes approximately about three or four servings, depending on the size of said servings. It can also be frozen to make popsicles, if you skip the flax seed and add a few spoons of yogurt.

Anyway, enjoy! Happy almost-end-of-Summer. ^_^

Thanks for reading!

The First Keening (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by the talented Yvonne "Vonnie" Blake, over at her blog My Backdoor Ministry. Click here to read and share more great fiction! Don't forget to leave a comment. 

A/N: I have the oddest threads of mythology and mythological creatures running through my head right now, so I apologize in advance if there's more myth than typical fantasy in this week's Friday Fiction. I just haven't been able to get Keera and Melissa out of my head. Thanks for reading!


“How is she?” Mrs. O’Leary was halfway out of her chair as her older sister descended the stairs.

“How long has she been out?” Melissa waved her away, taking a seat by perching on the sofa’s arm. “She’s fast asleep. Don’t wake her unless the house is on fire. Did you find the humidifier, Stan?”

Mr. O’Leary emerged from the kitchen with a grey plastic machine tucked under one arm. “Found it and filled it.”

found on google images. I own nothing. 
“Go plug it in, I’ll wait ‘till you’re back.” Melissa accepted a cup milk tea, wrapping her long fingers around the fat ceramic mug. Her brother-in-law hurried up the stairs.

Several minutes later, he returned, a crease in his brow. “She’s so still.”

“After effects of the first keening.” Melissa offered a grim smile. “Have you figured out who it might be?”

Mrs. O’Leary hesitated. “It could be one of three people. There’s Aunt Maggie, Uncle Lester and Grandma Molly.”

“How bad off?”

“Aunty M had a stroke, Uncle Les is recovering from bad case of the flu on top of his fractured ribs and punctured lung. Grandma Molly—well, I haven’t heard from anyone lately, but she was admitted for a broken hip. I don’t think that she would-”

“And you didn’t feel any inclinations?”

“No,” Mr. O’Leary sighed. “I think that’s where we figured out something was wrong with Keera.”

“When did she start?”

“This morning, but she’s been moping about all week. I thought it was something at school. You know how kids are in high school.”

“I thought she graduated.”

“She was—I mean, is. She’s a dual-enrollment student. I thought the courseload was probably too heavy.”

“And friends? Does she have any?”

“Now that you mention it,” Mrs. O’Leary exchanged a glance with her husband. “I don’t think she has. I certainly haven’t seen nor met any of her new ones and the old ones don’t come around any more.”

“Since she was mopey or from way before that?”

“Couple of months back.” Mr. O’Leary counted on his hands. “She started getting quieter then.”

“Ah,” Melissa hummed. “I see.”

Silence filled the cozy sitting room, broken by the occasional crackle in the fireplace or the chink of a spoon on ceramic.

“Can you help her?” Mrs. O’Leary twisted her fingers in the hem of her oversized cardigan. “Please?”

“I’ve already come all this way,” Melissa smiled over the top of her half-empty mug. “And I helped you when your inheritance came in, didn’t I?”

Mrs. O’Leary ducked her head. “You did. I remember. That’s why I called you and not Mum.”

Melissa chuckled. “Keera will be fine. I hope you both are ready for what that means.”

The warmth of the moment faded almost at once. Somber expressions were reflected all around as the realization dawned.

“Hey. It’s alright.” Melissa pulled herself together, extending her hands. “Here, come on. Circle up. Family that prays together, stays together, after all, right?”

Faint smiles touched the faces of her younger sister and brother-in-law as they drew nearer and they all joined hands. They took turns, heads bowed, saying a prayer for the youngest member of their little family, seeking comfort and asking for guidance.

A group hug followed the private moment and Melissa finally sighed and stepped back. “You knew it would happen,” she reminded them. Eighteen is the oldest you can manage to hold it off.”

“I know, but I still hoped,” Mrs. O’Leary began. She stopped.

“It’s not a curse.” Melissa reminded her, quietly. “Don’t think of it as a curse.”

“It’s hard to see it as anything else.”

“Jean.”  

“I-I should probably make some calls.” Mrs. O’Leary turned away, retreating to the kitchen.

Her husband watched her leave, worry showing on his face.

“Has she been like that since Keera changed?”

Mr. O’Leary frowned. “Maybe. More of less.”

Melissa made a sound in her throat and folded her arms. “That’s not good. I wish you’d called me earlier.”

“Is it that bad?”

“A first keening is always tricky, especially if she’s not sensitive to family. You said she’s been pulling away, shifting back, withdrawing?”

“Yes. But she’s always been a good kid. Quiet, but good.”

“Good is fine. Quiet, not necessarily so.” Melissa sighed. “If you have a sleeping bag or something, I’ll bunk in the same room. Sleep on the floor. It should help her rest easier. Jean might want to do the same.”

Mr. O’Leary nodded, slowly. “We have camping gear in the laundry room.” He paused. “Was Jean’s own this—bad?”

“Worse.” Melissa drained her cup and handed it over. “Which reminds me. They’ll both need you, so make sure you’re available.” She rolled her neck to the side, hearing it crack. “I have the feeling you’re not particularly fond of your family members.”

His face hardened. “They’re not particularly fond of Jean.” He said, evenly.

“Fair enough.” Melissa allowed. “Just be there for her. She’s likely been holding back the emotional and mental backlash without even realizing it. Mum did the same for her when she was coming into it, because she hadn’t realized that was what was happening with me the few years before. It made it easier on Jean, but a headache for me when Mum turned out to be her first keening.”

Mr. O’Leary winced. “She never talks about it.”

“She wouldn’t want to and I don’t like to.” Melissa tugged her ponytail loose and began to run her fingers through pitch black tresses. “But you don’t have to worry about history repeating there. If there’s ill in the family, they’re always called first.” She tipped her head forward. “Leave the sleeping bag outside of her room. Knock once and then run, if you can. Don’t stay there. I might be tempted. It’s been a while.”

“A while?”

“Too depressing for a bit, so I went backpacking through the Alps for stress relief.” Melissa snorted. “It was very relaxing. Nothing really dies up there, you know? Not people, anyway. The sorts of people that I’m related to, I mean.”

He grimaced. “I see.”

“We’re protective of our young,” Melissa explained. “And you may have noticed that there are no male banshees. So if you’re there longer than you should, I might see you as a threat.”

Something shattered in the kitchen and a squeak of surprise drew their attention.

“Jean?” Mr. O’Leary bolted for the kitchen.

Melissa followed at a more sedate pace, hovering just in the doorway as she watched the couple embrace. “None of the three?”

“All of the three.” Mrs. O’Leary swallowed, tears streaming down her face. She stood amidst shards of what had been the teapot and matching teacups. “My baby girl-!”

“Tea and bed.” Melissa shook her head. “More tea, then bed.” She corrected. “Don’t step on those. Clean it up tomorrow.” She threw at look at Stan. “Get her to calm down. I’ll check on Keera.”

As she turned away from the doorway, black hair began to turn silvery-white and her immaculate outfit grew shabbier. Soft white light glowed from her form as her features sharpened and her face turned gaunt. Gnarled, knobby fingers gripped the wooden railing and Melissa O’Leary, Head Banshee of the O’Leary clan, glided up the stairs to guard the bedroom of her niece. 

(c) Sara Harricharan

Friday, August 9, 2013

Trial by Fire is free today!

Have you read Trial by Fire yet? Free today for Book Lovers' day. Use this coupon at checkout: ZF39R. Grab your copy before midnight! 

www.smashwords.com/books/view/74396




Friday, August 2, 2013

B is for Ballpoint

A to Z blog hop at Patterings.
3rd round of A2Z blog meme. Click the pic for more info. 
I had the oddest little conversation the other day--actually, it was on Facebook. I say odd, because I'm rarely on there and when I am, it's usually for something writing related. Anyway, a friend had posted something about clicky pens and I just couldn't resist expressing my opinion.

Ho-hum, as Benny Alden would say.

It seems that we'll have to agree to disagree on that point.

I'm very picky about my writing instruments. As lovely and fantastic as plumed quills and custom-made fountain pens are, I prefer Zebra gel ink pens (black or blue ink) and the basic BIC Round Stic Grip ballpoint pens--with a cover.

I don't use pencils any more, not since I discovered that pens don't fade anywhere near as bad as pencils do. They are also made of a lovely thin plastic with just the right amount of bite. I've never chewed pencils, but I do occasionally nibble on my pen.

I never lend that particular pen to anyone--ever, and I will write with it until I've exhausted every drop of ink. While some folks may prefer a clicky pen, I despise them on the grounds that they are noisy and heavy. If you don't believe me, sit in a room with a two-year-old and give them a clicky pen.

You'll take it back in about five seconds, unless of course, that sort of repetitive noise helps you to focus or something. Whatever gets your words out. I won't judge you--much. As for it being heavy, well, face it. A good light ballpoint pen with a traditional pen cap, lightens considerably when you take the cap off of it. There's less weight and the very thin rubber grip does provide a decent writing experience. It also doesn't warp your notebook or harm the pen if you stick it between the pages before cramming it into your bag of choice.

Anyway, I did not mean to start out on a rambling rant about ball point pens. I think I just didn't have any brainpower to spare--oh wait, that starts with B too...

Thanks for stopping by! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Enchanted (Friday Fiction)


Hello everyone! This week, I have the privilege of hosting the first round of Friday Fiction, after our long hiatus. Welcome back to all the readers and writers. To join in the fun, just add the link to your story to the linky widget below. Remember to keep your stories PG-13. Don't forget read and comment. We all love the feedback. Happy weekend!

 ENCHANTED

“You have to enchant him, my darling!” The fairy godmother bustled around her newest charge. “Stop thinking in circles and think about him. Only him. See him in your mind’s eye, know what he must be. Picture the look on his face as you captivate him.” She peered up into the plain brown eyes and clucked her tongue. “Oh you poor little thing. I’ll have you looking drop-dead gorgeous in no time at all.”

“I don’t think this is going to work.” Miranda stood on tip-toe when prompted. “And I like how I look, thank you very much.”

“What? No.” The fairy godmother waved a hand at her. “With this? No, my dear. You need—more. You look a bit, not much.” The gentle smile was apologetic. “But don’t worry. I’ve worked with less before. I can do this. It will be wonderful. You will capture his heart in a heartbeat.”

“I wouldn’t know what to do with his heart—I hardly know what to do with mine.” She jumped. “Ow. That pinches. It’s tight.” She scrunched up her face in disapproval. “And your fingers are really cold. Can’t you just have the dress magically resize or something? Besides, what I really meant was that I don’t know anything about the Prince. I wouldn’t know the first thing to say in a proper conversation.”

“Then have an improper one. Speak to him as if you’re friends. Don’t worry about the formalities. Once he falls in love with you, there’s no restrictions on mannerisms and all of that courtly business. You’ll make such a lovely couple.”

“But what if I say the wrong thing? I’m not very good at saying the right ones.”

found on google images. I own nothing.
“Then don’t say anything at all, just stand there and be lovely. He won’t be able to take his eyes and look past you.”

“Staring makes me uncomfortable.”

“You can dance, can’t you? Say you can. If not, I’ll have to enchant your shoes too.”

“Shoes hurt my feet.”

“Enchanted they are then, alright, never mind.” The fairy godmother tapped her sparkle wand on the freckled cheeks, smiling when the appropriate shade of blush appeared on Miranda’s clean face. “There we go now, dearie. You look fit for a ball. Absolutely scrumptious. You’ll have the time of your life tonight.”

“I was having the time of my life with my book. It was a very good book. I wanted to read the end.”

“Now, now, it’ll still be there for you when you return home. There is a midnight clause after all.” The fairy godmother patted her arm, consolingly. “Don’t worry, it’ll be over before you know it. He’ll just eat you right up. You’re so adorable!”

“…but I don’t want to be eaten!” Miranda wailed. “I just want to be me. I don’t want to be a princess.”

“Hush, hush. Every girl wants to be a princess. Now hold still.” Matching lipstick and eyeshadow was spelled on to Miranda’s round face and the fairy godmother poked at her thick eyebrows.

Miranda sniffled, leaning away from the sparkling wand. “Even you?”

“What?”

She reached out and grabbed the wand from one pudgy hand. “I do believe in fairies.” She flashed a smile. “And I also believe in happily ever after.” She pointed the wand at the fairy godmother. “Make her a princess and please let me go back to my old life.”

There was an explosion of golden sparkles before the fairy workshop roared with vigor. It transformed the plump, grey-haired fairy godmother into a svelte, perfectly coiffed young woman, exchanging her official fairy robes for a ball gown of shimmering splendor and matching shoes.

Miranda beamed as her own fancy gown was traded back for a pair of comfy lounge pants and a silk pajama top, with fluffy pink slippers. To her surprise, the official fairy robes settled around her shoulders, cinching tight at the neck with a fancy gold and ruby broach. Soft hazel eyes grew wide in shock. “Erm,” she began, eloquently.

“Oh my.” The fairy godmother twirled in place, gloved hands hiding her face as happy tears streamed down her cheeks. “Oh. Oh my.” She sobbed. “I can’t believe it, I’m free!”

“I’m sorry, you’re what?” Miranda looked from the stolen wand to its previous owner. “What do you mean you’re free?”

“Oh, I can’t thank you enough, you dear, dear girl!” The fairy godmother hitched up her skirts and hurried over to grab Miranda in an awkward hug. “I’ve always dreamed of this,” she sniffled. “Always dreamed, always hoped.”

“Always the fairy godmother, never the princess?” Miranda bit her lip. “Can you stop choking me now?” She tried to extract herself from the vise-grip bear hug. “You’ll, ah, wrinkle your dress or something.”

The hug was retracted at once and the fairy godmother stepped back, clapping her hands together before giving a little hop. “I’m so happy.” She blubbered.

“You’re going to look like a wreck if you turn up to the ball like that.” Miranda scowled at the wand. “Here, you can have this back, just send me home first and-”

“Oh no. No. I couldn’t possibly.” The fairy godmother skittered back a few steps, a flicker of fear in her eyes. “It’s against the rules anyway.”

“The rules?”

“Well, yes. You can only acquire a wand by taking it from the previous owner—by force—and you cannot give it away, until you have fulfilled one hundred wishes.”

“…one hundred wishes? Are you kidding me? I don’t have time for this!”

The fairy godmother looked away, rubbing one arm. “That’s not quite all. It’s a position. You can’t get out of it.” She flinched, when Miranda lurched forward to grab her shoulders.

“What do you mean I can’t get out of it?”

“Just that. It’s the rules.” The fairy godmother twisted away from the harsh grip. “Don’t worry, the wand will explain. It usually does or that’s what the last one told me.” She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. Instead, her pretty baby blues reflected a depth of emotion that was completely different from all of her expressions up to that point. It was an instance of pure sorrow. “I’m sorry. Sort of. I wouldn’t have—well, I probably would have. Anything to get away from that. Can’t disobey the wand, after all.”

Miranda looked down at the glowing, glittery stick of gold in her hand. She tried to drop it. The wand stuck stubbornly to her palm. A sinking feeling began to register. “I’m not going to get to read my book, am I?”

The fairy godmother hesitated. “You could always ask,” she said, at last. “But you should probably know that from here on, you’re not your own person any more. There’s rules and limits and-”

“And I don’t really care, as long as I get to read.” Miranda looked up. “Don’t you have a ball to get to?”

The fairy godmother twisted her now slender hands together, the glittering rings flashing in the showy light of the workshop. “I suppose. I just—be careful, won’t you?”

“Happy ever after,” Miranda offered a mock bow. “Watch out for the midnight clause, or whatever that thing was.” She waved as the fairy-godmother-princess disappeared in a puff of strawberry-scented pink smoke. She sneezed. “Well, that could’ve been worse.” She looked at the wand. “Am I allowed to read?”

There was a long pause, then a single word projected into her mind.

Yes.

“Will you get me more books when I finish the one I’m reading?”

Another pause, then another word.

Maybe.

“Can that maybe turn into a yes?”

This pause was longer than the previous ones.

Yes.

“Good. We have a deal.” Miranda tipped her head forward in an approximation of a bow. “Hi. I’m Miranda. I’ll be your new—fairy godmother?”

There are rules that must be followed Miranda.

“Tch. Of course there is. But first, I’d like to have my book.” She rolled her neck to the side and shrugged her shoulders down. “If you don’t mind?” The wand burned in her hand, but Miranda only stared at it. When the searing pain finally dimmed, she perked a brow. “My book?”

Several seconds later, the book in question materialized by her left elbow. Miranda snatched it from mid-air and made her way across the glittery workshop to take a seat in the chair by the hearth. “Is there a time limit on these wishes? A deadline or something?”

…read your book first.

“Smart wand.” Miranda beamed at it. “I think we’ll get along splendidly.”


(c) Sara Harricharan
A/N: Whew. I haven't written one of these FF snippets in a long while, so I am a bit rusty. Please excuse me. I will stretch my writing muscles for next week. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read.